Eco Travel and Green Vacations

Travel and vacations can cause a dilemma for those who try to live the eco-friendly lifestyle as they are likely to increase our carbon footprint . The most eco-friendly solution for a vacation is possibly a Stay-cation, a vacation at home – either to sleep in our own beds, camp in the back yard, or in other accommodation close to home. We can take a break from day to day life, relax, explore the local area, visit local attractions, without travelling significantly using public transport, cycling, hiking or back packing.  Whilst this might be a good option, it doesn’t necessarily meet our vacation criteria for every single vacation of our lives.  There is a whole beautiful world to explore, other cultures and lifestyles to be  discovered, loved ones to reconnect with, particularly those in  other locations or even overseas.  When we visit other places, we are taken out of our own world, to have experiences that can help us to appreciate the value of this wonderful planet.  Vacations give us a break from the hustle and bustle of daily life, and hopefully give us a chance to relax and spend quality time with those we are closest to.  By planning our vacations with consideration for the environment we can hopefully stay true to our eco commitments and enjoy our well earned vacation time.


Camping  and RV

Camping is a great eco-friendly vacation . My children have some school friends with luxury vacation homes in popular hot sunny vacation destinations. They used to ask when we would be buying a vacation home to which I cheerily replied, we already have one – our tent. We don’t have to go to the same place every year, we can take our tent with anywhere we like!  Some of their friends are actually quite envious of some of our trips as they have never camped. Simple, basic vacations are often the ones with the best memories.  Many lodges, or camping sites are in beautiful locations and can be relaxing way to spend time together with little expense or without travelling too far. Tents and equipment can be bought quite reasonably on auction selling sites and local ads, and will last for a many years.  Some are nearly new, bought by people having a go and deciding its not their thing. If you haven’t camped before or have purchased new equipment it is a good idea to test them out before the trip.  A back yard sleep over is a good rehearsal and road test.

A few years ago I took my three boys camping close to a local beach. Despite my best efforts to supervise and warn, my active middle son was nearly swept away by a wave, momentarily got lost and somehow miraculously narrowly escaped falling off a cliff. He had raced on ahead up the cliff stairs whilst my elder son took charge of the youngest brother, and I struggled with all of our beach paraphernalia including a stroller. I found him at the edge of a high cliff with his hoody on backwards over his face walking along pretending to be a zombie.  After a last stressful visit to the communal bathrooms to brush teeth and get ready for bed, we finally got into our camp beds.  My youngest snuggled into his big brothers sleeping bag, having finally accepted that he would not be sleeping in his familiar bedroom and crib. I looked over my little boys all settled in their beds,  three of us with our pillows in a row, middle son with his pillow at the other end in line with our feet.  …With nerves shattered I turned off my lamp and heard a little voice from the aforementioned middle son, “This has been the best day of my life!”  I sighed and thought “I am glad it was a good one.  It could have so easily been your last!“   That vacation got better.   We did have fun, and all survived, without a huge cost to the environment.

For future camping trips I purchased a very easy to put up tent, made by Kyham, with poles already attached, reducing the stress of erecting the tent, plus a simple solar shower water holder for tooth brushing and hand washing, and some simple cooking equipment. I also made a pledge not to stay at cliff top campsites with young children unless accompanied by other responsible adults. Camping offers us choices and keeps us in touch with nature.

We have stayed on sites and seen a whole range of camping gear – from large RV’s bigger than some houses with all of the home comforts including satellite dishes,  to lovely little retro trailers with bunting at the window,  and on to simple canvas tents.   Apart from the change of scenery it seems a bit odd to me to go camping in beautiful locations and take a satellite dish for keeping up to date with the latest TV shows.  When I go on vacation I prefer to take a break from all that. Just being out in nature, sleeping when its dark and waking when its light, away from the hustle and bustle of life is a good way to get back to nature.

It is necessary to have some light at night, and solar lights, wind up torches add to the convenience.   I wouldn’t mind a little stay in the concept solar tent below.  A little bit of eco power could make camping that little bit more comfortable.


Some sites have fire pits for cooking and camp fires.  Never take a barbecue or wood fire too close to the tent, and definitely not inside.   Even glowing embers are a fire risk and can cause death from carbon monoxide fumes.

Remember to take the citronella candles too, to keep deter the mosquitoes!


Glamping, camping pods or lodges

For those who like the idea of trying camping, or would like some of the home comforts there are vacations in camping pods, or well kitted out tents, often referred to as glamping.

One winter we had such a fun time when we booked a rental lodge in the mountains with no wifi and TV.  We looked at the picture on the website and what looked like a tv turned out to be a microwave oven!  The novelty of watching the microwave heat up soup soon wore off.   Luckily we had taken some toys, legos etc, and found a pack of playing cards.  We had a wonderful weekend, hiking in the day, huddled around the log fire, playing card games and doing magic tricks in the evenings, watching the logs burn and fighting over whose turn it was to chuck the next log on!


House exchanges

For those who actually would like to holiday at home without the large carbon footprint, but someone else’s home, it is possible to arrange house exchanges.  Look for a reputable organization to book this.

Ideally, find an exchange with someone with similar Eco Friendly ideals – perhaps someone who can water the plants, feed the back yard chickens or keep an eye on the bees whilst you are away!


Green Vacation companies

There are companies and organizations specializing in green vacations in Canada or worldwide.  Some organize volunteering or conservation opportunities, or learning new skills, whilst others may list tour operators using greener travel choices or companies committed to using green energy and following environmentally friendly policies across the company.

Choosing to stay  in Eco friendly accommodation is a good way to support the environment.  I do smile when I see the polite little sign in a hotel bathroom, “Please reuse your towels and help us to protect the environment. “  They forget to add, “and save us money, because we won’t charge you any less for the room, despite the reduced laundry bill!”  A real commitment would be just that, an extra charge for a daily change of towels and bedding and a reward to greener customers.  Of course as with all environmentally friendly efforts, every little helps.

I have yet to see a hotel room which encourages sorting trash to encourage recycling, although there are often communal bins for recyclable waste, such as soda cans and plastic bottles. If your hotel doesn’t offer a recycling service look for one on the roadside as your travel around, or depots where you can drop it off.

Wherever we go and whatever we do on vacation we can continue to practice green living.   We don’t need a break from that.  We can still be aware of the need to reduce waste and recycle.  We still need to buy locally, and ethically and support the local businesses.  A great vacation would allow us to be with our loved ones and spend some time getting closer  to nature, either in a forest, a rural area or close to a lake or the ocean whilst respecting  the local environment.  Our vacations can help us feel more connected with each other and the world.

Vacations are big business.  They are also a source of potential over consumption and unnecessary harm to the environment.  For many those “once in a life time vacations” have become the annual or even seasonal must haves. Status symbols. I was recently a part of a group conversation which included the statement, “Summer just isn’t summer without a few weeks in the South of France is it?“ Most of the others nodded their heads in agreement.  They went on to discuss plans for their annual shopping vacations to buy designer labelled goods and their annual winter and skiing vacations.   Blah blah blah.  The conversation then turned to me. “Are you going camping again in your little tent this year?“  I smiled and replied, “Er, no.  We’ll be going in our big tent this year. We don’t all fit in our little tent! ”

For us, summer isn’t summer unless we have been rained on in our tent, built dens in the woods, cycled and had picnics,  and been swimming out doors in a lake, or at our closest beach.  We shop on Ebay and local thrift stores for our designer goods..and our non designer ones, and we don’t need skiing vacations as we have our second hand sleds.  We live in a beautiful location.  We have a good lifestyle and don’t feel the need to regularly escape it.  We enjoy having friends and family to stay, or visiting them.    We are planning and saving for our once in a life time trip, until then we are glad to be able to vacation and appreciate the wonders of nature, and make the most of our time together as all good vacations should.

Like what we’re doing? Want to share your story or tell others? Do you have a green business in Calgary and want to get in front of a large local audience? Let’s build a green community together!